Driving this whole setup can be described in one word: fleet. As if it had metaphorical wings on its metaphorical heels. There are too many inseparable factors-the body, the well-tuned suspension, the grippy tires, the light unsprung weight of the wheels, the fact that an Elise's steering feel is ranked among the wonders of the automotive world-to make a definitive statement on exactly why the nose turns into a bend so sweetly, so eagerly. It just does. Even with an untouched drivetrain, the car delivers on the promise it hinted at while motionless under exhibition hall lights.
Transverse mid engine, rear-wheel drive
1.9-liter I4, dohc, 16-valve
KW Variant 2 coilovers
Wheels & Tires
Volk Racing TE37, 7x16 (f), 8x17 (r)
Hankook Ventus Z214, 205/50 (f), 225/45 (r)
Carbon panels, carbon hardtop by Seibon, APR carbon side mirrors
Carbon accents, sport seats
Smart New Suit
One thing we didn't see at SEMA, but discovered while visiting Seibon's southern California facility, was this Smart Passion. The Smart was originally designed with interchangeable panels, but those plastic items have been replaced with a carbon fiber makeover. This is an 18-piece kit that includes a revised front end, wider fenders and a rear spoiler, with all CF parts fashioned from 2x2 twill weave fabric.
Once again, there's a KW Variant 2 coilover suspension and dangling from it are Rays Engineering/Volks Racing RE30 forged monoblock wheels (sized 7x17); the original four-lug wheel hubs have been adapted to take five. The car rolls on 215/35 Hankook Ventus V4 ES all-season tires.
In this instance, the car isn't any lighter than its stock equivalent, it's an exercise in aesthetics; Seibon has yet to set a price. But as such exercises go, this is a good one. It lends an air of seriousness to a vehicle that sometimes looks like a toy in its usual street guise. -CR